Latest statistics show that Batswana are a Facebook people with almost 1 034 600 users and this number which represent 42.7 percent of this country’s population is exposed to many businesses who uses the social network as a medium of marketing and advertising.
But this issue of high numbers using Facebook comes as a double edged sword for the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS), limiting the collection of revenues on the cyber space. Companies advertise on Twitter, Instagram and other social media networks and this would affect BURS tax collection. Local economist told WeekendPost that the problem with this country taxation is collection, advising that gathering of taxes should be maximized or prioritized. When reading the national budget recently finance minister Thapelo Matsheka talked of an overall deficit of P1.98 billion, or -1.1 percent of GDP. Matsheka said this negative budget overturn was due to the lower tax collections during the year.
“Efforts will therefore, be intensified to ensure efficiency in the collection of tax revenues by the Botswana Unified Revenue Service through the continuous review of tax laws and leveraging on the use of ICT to enhance compliance,” said Matsheka. BURS director of tax and policy William Nkitseng told attendees at the recent FNBB budget review that business models are changing and going into the digital space, hence the need for the tax regime to evolve. He said businesses are changing from being SMMEs to big digital business model who come with challenges especially taxation issues.
Botswana want to have a digital economy by 2036 and already there has been much evangelism to impart Fourth Industrial Revolution into this nation’s young minds as it is seen as a major tool to being a high income economy. But there is already a challenging facing BURS coming with digital businesses according to Nkitseng, they are not easy to tax. Nkitseng said they wish to tax everyone doing business in Botswana, your Ubers and Netflixes. He gave an example that Uber can own a fleet of taxis from somewhere and someone is Botswana control the fleet, earns a lot of money but not taxed.
Nkitseng said this country’s tax legal framework is limited because tax is withheld looking at physical presence. “We wish to catch these companies….efforts are being made to catch these people, by the end of this year we will know how we can get hold of companies in the digital model. We want your money you make for Google, Netflix/Uber because they make a lot of money here and we don’t tax them,” he said.
Nkitseng and BURS cannot go to Menlo Park, Carlifornia, USA to withhold taxes from Facebook. Netflix is making money in Botswana with a subscription of around P100 per month, but zero tax. By October 2015 Netflix is said to have had 69.17 million subscriber globally and in this five years the number may have doubled.
Botswana has its own Uber now, Hello Cabs which also use the phone app like Ubers’. Uber has a global market value of P720 billion, it generated P120 billion in gross bookings in the most recent quarter. It boast more than 75 million active Uber riders across the world and is available in more than 80 countries worldwide. Nkitseng believes Botswana should also cash from these plaudits via taxation.
He however said the world is aware that digital companies are not paying taxes. It is already a topical issue in the G20 countries’ tops and a highly debated issue. Even regionally, Africa is moving on coming up with inclusive frameworks for the digital economy. But Nkitseng’s concern was not mentioned in the most important announcement of the year which has the government planning period in mind. Matsheka may have missed the taxing of the digital companies, even though Nkitseng said before the end of this year there will have made a plan on how to tax digital businesses. Maybe taxation of the digital economy could have been hidden in the current financial year but not coming out explicitly, it may come out clear during the year in Nkitseng.
Matsheka only said, “To this end, efforts will continue to be made to expand our tax base through review of tax legislation and regulations, to enable the revenue authority to effectively discharge its mandate. It is for this reason that focusing on simplifying the tax legislation continues to be a priority as a way of enhancing tax compliance, while at the same time, reducing the cost of tax administration.”
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.